Many businesses have cooperated with the Ryu ga Gotoku series. Kamurocho is filled with the signs of real-life businesses. Aside from making the game world more charming, what role did these business tie-ups play?
Kamurocho, the setting of Ryu ga Gotoku, and the other towns include advertisements for real businesses. These are an important part of bringing out the realism in the townscapes that appear in the games. The latest game, RGG4, has the highest number of business tie-ups in the series at 38. These don't just appear in-game, but using their cooperation to advertise using real stores and products serves as an advertisement for the Ryu ga Gotoku series itself, which benefits both parties. Let's take a look at some of these tie-ups.
First of all is the tie-up with discount shop Don Quijote. This is one of the businesses that showed understanding of the project from the start. The shop with its showy, stand-out sign has become one of the regular features of the Ryu ga Gotoku series. When RGG4 was released, a campaign was held at the real-life store. This contributed greatly to encouraging sales.
Gyudon chain Matsuya has been featured since RGG2. This is familiar as being the place where Kiryu rushes to eat gyudon when he has exhausted his stamina. Matsuya is a place that is filled with memories of Nagoshi's youth, and he was apparently especially pleased to have it as a tie-up.
In RGG2, tie-ups with Kansai's distinctive restaurants played a big part in creating the Osakan townscape. When thinking of the red light districts of Osaka, their vibrantly coloured signs are what leave an impression. Through tie-ups with Kani Doraku and Zuboraya, giant crab and puffer fish signs appear in the in-game town.
RGG3 also features tie-ups with Okinawan businesses. In the Ryukyu district you can find such shops as Okinawa-ya, a shop selling souvenirs like soki soba and chinsuko, and the Blue Seal parlour where you can taste Okinawa's famous Blue Seal ice cream. This gives the Okinawan town its peaceful atmosphere.
There are also some tie-ups that let us see another side of Kiryu. At Karaoke-kan, a karaoke box that first appeared in Kamurocho in RGG3, Kiryu challenges himself to karaoke for the first time. Kiryu's enthusiastic accompaniment to Haruka's singing proved to be popular. In RGG4, new protagonist Akiyama showcases his own singing. We also get to see his duet with his employee, Hana-chan. Through the power of business tie-ups, Kamurocho has gradually morphed into a town with a richer variety of entertainment.
38 tie-ups appear in the newest game, but at first it was difficult to get businesses to understand, leading to a succession of hardships. Since the game is set in the criminal underworld, it seems as though many businesses were concerned that it would have a negative impact on their reputation.
With RGG2 the game's level of recognition rose, and the number of business tie-ups increased accordingly. Despite the number dropping slightly due to Kenzan! being set in the Edo period, the number of tie-ups reached a peak with RGG3. Some companies even began requesting tie-ups themselves.
It was at this time that issues with the schedule gradually began to arise. Shops and signs of the tie-up businesses are created by the CG designers and placed in the game, but since the development period lasts for only a year there wasn't enough time to create CG after the surge in tie-ups. If it took too long to come to terms on the details of the tie-up, they wouldn't be able to get it into the game in time.
"Even still, I wanted to continue our current style of someone from Sega directly negotiating tie-ups, rather than going through an advertising agency, for as long as I could. What's most important of all is for someone from the office to directly explain the game's charms to the businesses." (Uemura)
As a result of business tie-ups, a lot of collaborative merchandise has also been created. Exemplary of these is Kenzan!'s cup noodles. Kosuke Ueda of the Acecook marketing department is a huge fan of the games, and came up with a proposal: "Don't you think that udon would fit Gion, Kyoto better than ramen?" His plan was to create a new menu thought up by the owner of an udon place setting up shop in Gion. As a result, Oomori Kiwami Yaki Udon Kenzan!, cup noodles fitting into the world of Kenzan!, were born. Having an in-game product released as real-world merchandise was a hot topic amongst fans.
Later on, in RGG3, Mr. Ueda himself appears as an in-game character. He plays the role of a man who becomes infatuated with the taste of ramen shop Kyushu No. 1 Star who then undergoes a struggle to create cup noodles that embody this flavour. With the concept of being the cup noodles created from this substory, Kyushu No. 1 Star Thick Tonkotsu Ramen was released. In RGG4, Yukihiro Matsuyama of Acecook's marketing team also appears as an in-game character. He plays an enthusiastic role in a substory that leads to the creation of a new menu item, Thick Black Garlic Oil Tonkotsu Ramen. This ramen was also released as actual cup noodles, and was met with high praise.
Aside from this, original awamori and umeshu were developed in collaboration with Okinawa's Seifuku Shuzo for RGG3. Uemura, head of promotions, apparently visited each of Okinawa's breweries one by one and searched for someone to work with. As a result of his efforts, a gem that was accepted by even seasoned drinker Nagoshi was created. Retort pouch curry was developed in collaboration with Matsuya. Matsuya x Ryu ga Gotoku 4 Original Curry was released, its flavour having been selected from a poll of more than 100 staff members who participated in a sampling party at Sega HQ.
More and more collaboration items are born, increasing the opportunities for in-game substories. This caused the possibility for new business tie-ups that go beyond simple in-game advertising to bloom.
An original sukajan was created by the apparel maker Cropped Heads as part of a collaboration for RGG3. The rising dragon on the arms and back packs quite a punch. Not only this, but they also released a long t-shirt and parka based on Kiryu and Majima's tattoos. These became charming items from a brand that has a following for its western clothes that incorporate Japanese elements.
Also made for RGG3 was a collaboration with Nesta Brand on a t-shirt, whose unique design is reminiscent of graphic art.
RGG4 has even more substantial business tie-ups. These created a variety of noteworthy items. There is a t-shirt made in collaboration with apparel brand Vanquish. It has a simple yet stylish design that adults can wear coolly.
Collborations have also been made with perfume brand Dramatic Parfums. The ultimate enticing perfume Drama Homme I, created with the image of a passionate man, was released in limited quantity. The packaging is decorates with a likeness of the rising dragon from Kiryu's tattoo. This perfume also appears in-game, and will greatly raise your rating with the hostesses if you put it on before going to the club. Drama Femme, a women's perfume that greatly increases their liking of you if given as a present, also appears in-game.
"Men's Pasta" was released as part of a limited time menu at nationwide café and bar chain Pronto. It was a filling gem of a dish, composed of pasta with Berkshire pork meat sauce. A campaign was also held where you could win a chic pasta dish decorated with a dragon design.
A campaign was held at izakaya chain Watami to win an original Ryu ga Gotoku designed "legendary beer mug". A Watami shop appears in the game as well, which led to the synergy of people seeing it in the game, becoming interested and actually visiting one.
Many collaboration items have been created through business tie-ups. This has abandoned the emphasis on turning a profit by selling goods based on characters, displaying quite a different method to the norm. The Ryu ga Gotoku series places its emphasis on selling goods that act as an advertising medium.
Including a variety of items created through collaborations with businesses caused the level of Ryu ga Gotoku's recognition to rise. This also increased the value of Ryu ga Gotoku's own content. Perhaps this hints at a solution for a new business model in the unknown market of adult-oriented games.